Book Review: Evans A. Adu-Gyamfi. A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons & Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role. Accra: Scopen Minds, 2016. 117pp. Paperback, ISBN 978-9988-2-2272-7. Review by Michael K. Okyere Asante.
I wish A Toast to Fatherhood had come at the time when I held offenses against my father; amongst other things, I had blamed him for my mum’s premature departure to her Maker. It will take me three years after my mother’s death, at a men’s conference, to forgive my father and to appreciate his role in my life.
Truth is he was not even aware I had this feeling of resentment against him. But when I understood the need to focus on the good, forgive and let go, and I saw in my own life that I was as imperfect and needed forgiveness, I wept and said to myself, “Dad, I forgive you.” That grudge nearly marred the 23-year beautiful relationship I had with my father.
This is what Evans Adu-Gyamfi’s book A Toast to Fatherhood seeks to do: to turn the hearts of children to their fathers. The book provides a solution to the fatherhood crisis we have in our nation and around the world. Many are bitter towards their fathers and have decided to focus on the negatives instead of the good. They might have been abused, neglected, rejected, provoked by their fathers, but Adu-Gymafi helps us to see a new possibility where this fatherhood crisis can be a thing of the past: focus on valuing the good of fatherhood.
While the agendum has been to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, Adu-Gyamfi embarks on a reorientation that seeks to turn the hearts of children towards their fathers. It doesn’t always have to be fathers making the move. As Adu-Gyamfi notes, we can make the first step by being appreciative; by respecting and honouring our fathers; by learning not to berate but value the institution of fatherhood; and by choosing to be good fathers (and mothers) ourselves (Chapter 1).
In this book, the author’s definition of ‘father’ is not limited to a biological concept, but extends to anyone who plays a fatherly role in a person’s life; it can be a step-father, a father-in-law, a mentor, a foster father or even extend to religious leaders, teachers, and other people who contribute to our personal development. The author points out the importance of verbally acknowledging the role of fathers in our lives; that it takes personal initiative to do this.
The author advocates a direct, impartial and articulated appreciation, not one hidden in gifts but expressed in genuine words (Chapter 5). Fathers need to hear from their children and protégés—while they are alive—how beneficial their roles in the lives of these ones have been.
Even for those who have had bitter experiences, the author encourages: ‘I remain grateful, knowing that my “past experiences, no matter how bad, are never a total waste!”’ (p. 18), and adds, “as we look back on life we must understand that whatever relationship we had with our fathers (whether they are alive or dead) was but to teach us a lesson or two about this life” (p. 21). The author shares several examples in that respect in Chapter 4 titled “Life Lessons from My Fathers”.
The book encourages children (both young and grown) not to transfer their experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood, for in many respects, even though they may have been neglected by their biological fathers, disappointed by a father-figure, or heart-broken by the actions of a potential father, they should make “a toast to fatherhood” and see fatherhood as an institution and not as individuals (Chapter 2).
What kind of future will this produce? Adu-Gyamfi writes, “…the fathers of the generations to come shall be better versions of what we have currently” (p. 5). Isn’t that great news? But this means that sons and daughters will have to beat the premature desire for freedom from their fathers’ supervision, what the author has presented in Chapter 3 as the Maturity-Freedom Matrix.
The book is of high quality, the design and layout and the weaving of stories into the writing makes it a delight to read. Adu-Gyamfi, an advocate of fatherhood and care for the aged, coupled with his experiences over the years, is indubitably qualified to bring this subject to the fore. The emphasis of his call is this: “let us turn the hearts of children to their fathers”.
I recommend A Toast to Fatherhood to anyone who has a reason or is struggling to be thankful to a father-figure (biological or non-biological) in their lives.
The review was first published in the Daily Heritage newspaper, April 13, 2017, p. 6.